ACLU challenge of Nevada ballot hand-counting dismissed

Oct 13, 2022, 3:13 PM | Updated: 5:25 pm
FILE - People walk along the main drag in the county seat of Nye County on July 18, 2022, in Tonopa...

FILE - People walk along the main drag in the county seat of Nye County on July 18, 2022, in Tonopah, Nev. A Nye County district judge dismissed an emergency petition by the ACLU's Nevada chapter attempting to stop the implementation of the county's new hand-counting process, which was spurred by false claims of election fraud. The process entails hand-counting all paper ballots alongside a machine tabulator. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nye County District Court judge dismissed an emergency petition by the ACLU’s Nevada chapter attempting to stop the county from its plan to hand-count votes alongside a machine tabulator starting later this month. The plan was spurred by false claims of election fraud.

In a ruling Wednesday, the case was dismissed mainly on technicalities. Fifth District Court Judge Kimberly Wanker said the ACLU did not provide a recording or transcript of the publicly available Nye County Board of Commissioners meeting referenced in the organization’s petition. The judge said it was unreasonable for the court to access the video and watch a 7-hour, 23-minute video to find a presentation on the plan. She also said there was no certificate of service in the file that indicated the respondents were served with an emergency petition.

The ACLU will file a new petition Friday in the Nevada Supreme Court seeking to block hand-counting, executive director Athar Haseebullah said.

Nye County is one of the first jurisdictions nationwide to act on election conspiracies related to mistrust in voting machines.

The county plans to start hand-counting mail-in ballots two weeks before Election Day, which the ACLU said in its lawsuit risks public release of early voting results. It alleges that their method of using a touch-screen tabulator for people with “special needs” illegally allows election workers to ask about a voter’s disability or turn away otherwise eligible voters based on “arbitrary decision making,” and that Nye County’s wording of “special needs” is ambiguous. The organization also argues that the county’s “stringent signature verification,” which allows the clerk to require an ID card if a voter’s signature fails, violates state statute.

Mark Kampf, the interim Nye County clerk who is implementing the hand-counting, declined to comment on the lawsuit or its dismissal. He said in an email that the county plans to go ahead with its hand count before Election Day.

On Tuesday before the ruling, Nye County spokesman Arnold Knightly said the complaint distorted the county and Kampf’s election plans and that the county would mount a “vigorous legal defense that clarifies the misleading allegations and disposes of the legal action as swiftly as possible.” The county did not respond to additional questions.

Nye County officials originally planned to use hand-counting as its primary counting method, but made it secondary to machine counting, which allows them to avoid new state regulations governing the practice.

Kampf has called the Dominion voting machines it will use a “stop-gap” measure while the county decides how to handle tallies for future elections, potentially without machines at all.

Several Nye County commissioners said a presentation by GOP secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant, a 2020 election denier, convinced them to request a hand-count of all mail-in ballots. Marchant is a member of the America First Secretary of State Coalition that peddles false claims of election fraud and advocates for voter ID, same-day voting, paper ballots and eliminating mail-in ballots.

Standing next to former President Donald Trump at a rally in rural Nevada last week, Marchant said if his coalition is elected, “we’re going to fix the whole country. And President Trump is going to be president again in 2024.”

Haseebullah said the ACLU will also file challenges on behalf of Nye County voters if any problems arise from the hand-counting — part of “an ongoing battle, probably for the next several years to come.”

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This story has been corrected to say that the ruling happened on Wednesday, not Thursday.

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Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326.

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ACLU challenge of Nevada ballot hand-counting dismissed